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It will shock no one when we say that New York City is unquestionably a five-star destination in its own right. But, once you have spent some time in the concrete jungle, NYC can also be a great jumping-off point for other adventures. (Heck, even New Yorkers don’t always stick around the city in the summer.)
We recently visited the city that never sleeps, made Brooklyn our home base for four nights, explored the borough and even walked across the Brooklyn Bridge — a bucket list experience.
After a few days, we were ready for some fresh air and greener meadows. We found those in abundance in the Hudson Valley, just a road trip away.
What to See in New York’s Hudson Valley
Starting out with a rental car booked from Greenwich Village, I got behind the wheel and drove the streets of New York City (it wasn’t that bad). We navigated up West Street and took the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River out toward New Jersey. We were quickly out of the city and into the countryside. We crossed back into New York state amid green trees, rolling hills and lots of fresh air.
Ninety miles up the road, we hit some fun family spots throughout Ulster County (about two-and-a-half hours north of Manhattan, depending on traffic) on our two-night adventure.
Here a few of the highlights for families exploring the Hudson Valley area:
Historic Huguenot Village
In downtown New Paltz, New York, Historic Huguenot Street is a National Historic Landmark dedicated to helping visitors understand early American settlements. Named after the French Huguenot community that settled here in the late 1800s, the site has actually been inhabited far longer. The native Esopus Munsee people built their villages on this site, dating back more than 1,000 years. There’s even a replica wigwam built on-site to better understand the very early human civilization here.
The village also treats slavery with honesty, noting the role enslaved people played in American history — even this far North.
It was cool for the kids to walk inside some of these old homes and see how people lived generations ago. Historic Huguenot Street has done an admirable job piecing together the lives of original Huguenot families. Our kids were fascinated by the “spooky” graveyard on the church grounds, dating back so long the headstones have lost some of their engravings.
A good way to spice up history for tweens and teens is an old-fashioned ghost story. The Historic Huguenot Street has several. Our guide told us of a couple gruesome stories, and the subsequent ghosts that haunt the area on occasion. Of course, our girls were thrilled. They also learned a thing or two in the process.
Guided tours are $12 for adults and free for kids 12 and under.
Woodstock Farm Sanctuary
No family visit to the Hudson Valley is complete without a farm visit. The farms in this area are breathtakingly beautiful, and full of authentic charm. As soon as we exited the car at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, the call of turkeys and bleat of goats were our welcome greetings. Home for animals that have been mistreated or abandoned from other farms in the area, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary used to be located in Woodstock (hence the name), but then located to more spacious quarters in High Falls, New York, within Ulster County.
We made a beeline for the goats and got to meet several up close and personal. Nursed back to health, these goats were now fat and happy. So were the llamas, sheep, turkeys, pigs, cows and chickens we met along our tour. All are permanent residents of the farm, welcome to live out their days well cared for and loved by many.
Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids 4–12 and free for children 3 and under.
Note: Woodstock Farm Sanctuary has a vegan mission, and there are some areas dedicated to educating visitors about less humane animal practices, so plan your visit accordingly.
Whether or not you choose to stay at the charming Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa, the grounds make for a spectacular visit. We headed here for a very delicious dinner at Henry’s, the on-site restaurant. Arriving a couple of hours early was a great idea. We had ample time to explore the 70-acre site, complete with a lake, farm and hiking trails.
One of the trails took us on a meandering path down to the side of Buttermilk Falls. The falls are beautiful and rapid, but not large. As far as waterfalls go, this was a peaceful one, ending in a calm pool and, ultimately, the Hudson River. Past the falls, the path does lead to the river’s edge, interrupted by train tracks along a low trestle bridge.
Back up the trail to another part of this property, we came upon a farm animal petting zoo of sorts. The kissing llamas were the cutest. Another highlight was feeding the goats, which seemed bottomless in their desire for more, more, more.
Dinner at Henry’s was superb. Based largely on locally grown ingredients, the menu was a list of things-we-must-have-right-now. It was truly hard to decide, since there was something for every palate — even the kids. Be sure and pack one of the best credit cards for dining to rack up the points.
Hiking the Hudson Valley
Enjoying the great outdoors is a major reason to visit the Hudson Valley — and we made the most of it. In the area around Mohonk Mountain House and the 5,000-acre Mohonk Preserve in the Shawangunk Ridge, we hiked the forest trails to enjoy the local flora and fauna. (Admission to the preserve is $15 for adult hikers and $20 for bikers, climbers and horseback riders. Kids 12 and under are free.)
Our timing was fortunate, the mountain laurel was in full pink-and-white bloom, which is a rarity only enjoyed a few weeks out of the year. Their blossoms were everywhere, and the fragrance was sweet and beautiful. The trails in this area can be highly maintained, or quite wild. For a listing of family-friendly hiking trails in the area, check out the Mohonk Preserve website.
Where to Stay in Hudson Valley
Hampton Inn New Paltz (New Paltz) — Located in charming New Paltz, home of the State University of New York, this Hampton Inn offers a heated saltwater pool and free Wi-Fi. Rooms start at approximately $175/night or available from 36,000 Hilton Honors points.
Application Link: Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card – 130,000 points plus a free weekend night certificate after you spend $4,000 in the first four months. Terms Apply.
Kingston Courtyard by Marriott (Kingston) — Right in the heart of the beautiful Catskill Mountains, this hotel is close to attractions and points of interest. Rooms start at approximately $150/night or from 17,500 Marriott points.
Quality Inn & Suites (Kingston) — A full-service hotel, the Quality Inn Kingston offers an indoor pool, game room and exercise facility in addition to all the amenities. Rooms start at approximately $88/night or from 12,000 Choice Privileges points.
Buttermilk Falls Inn & Spa (Milton) — This picturesque bed-and-breakfast dates back to 1764. Rooms are located within the main house and also in nearby buildings, interspersed with beautiful grounds. Room start at around $250/night.
Mohonk Mountain House (New Paltz) — An historic hotel currently celebrating it’s 150th anniversary, this property is extensive and gorgeous across more than 2,000 acres. Room rates during high season start at $700/night, including all meals and most activities as part of the nightly rate. (Kids can stay and eat for free in same room.)
A road trip to Hudson Valley is an ideal addition to a New York City vacation. You’ll get the best of both worlds: a world-class metropolitan area paired with nature’s best just a few hours north of the city. Visit in the spring, summer and fall months to get the most of the outdoor activities.
If you need help planning the NYC portion of your trip, check out these suggestions:
- 9 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Little Kids in NYC
- Best Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows in NYC for Kids
- Affordable Activities for Families Visiting New York City
- Enjoy New York City With the Family — Without the Tourist Traps
Know before you go.
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